“Without First Graduate, I would have been pretty lost in high school,” says Jacky, a First Graduate senior at Lowell High School.
Jacky was one of our featured speakers at a recent event called the High School Choice Panel. At this event, we invited our 8th grade students to listen to a panel of our high school students offering wisdom and advice about the high school experience. By connecting younger students in the program to older students through events like these, we hope that kids will feel a strong sense of community and better understand the long-term support they will receive throughout their ten year journey with First Graduate.
Jacky’s reflections on the high school transition were a powerful message for our middle school students. “The transition from middle school to high school was very rough for me, and First Graduate guided me through it by teaching me how to make an effective schedule and how to pick classes. Throughout the first two years, I was able to get a lot of support,” Jacky shared with us. For many of our 8th grade students the transition to high school is a scary one, and it’s important for them to know that there is a network of support to guide them through this challenging time. From time management to picking classes to homework support, First Graduate high schoolers were able to offer all kinds of helpful advice on how to successfully transition into the academically rigorous and demanding high school years.
One highlight of the panel was a discussion of the college application process. Students discussed First Graduate’s free SAT preparation course, college fairs, and spring break visits to Southern California to tour college campuses there. Juniors and seniors reflected on how they received regular coaching on their college applications. “During the application process, us seniors were able to drop into the First Graduate office for any help regarding college applications, financial aid, or just needing a place to get work done. I never thought I would be able to finish my college applications early,” recalled Jacky, “but with the extra push from First Graduate, I was able to do just that.”
Students also underscored the importance of career preparation during the high school years. Jacky recalled his career-focused experiences with First Graduate, including visiting a technology firm, working on interviewing skills, and attending the event “Exploring The Possibilities” where professionals from different companies give presentations to First Graduate high schoolers on their careers. Jacky also spent a summer interning at First Graduate’s middle school summer program, where he got to know many of the younger students in the program and connect more deeply with the FG community.
8th grade students had a number of questions for our high school panel. “How do you wake up so early for high school? Do you use an alarm, or something else?” asked an 8th grader from James Denman Middle School. “What tips would you give an incoming 9th grader?” asked another.
After the panel, many of our 8th graders shared their learnings and impressions with us. “It’s good to know that there are First Graduate high school students to ask questions if I need help. One thing I learned at this event was that I need to learn how to time manage,” reflected 8th grade student Raziel. “One interesting thing I learned was that we get to pick our AP classes in high school” said another student Kevin. The middle school students enjoyed the opportunity to chat with older students in the program, and learned valuable tips for a successful high school experience!